How to Identify & Express Your Needs in a Relationship
Does it feel like something is missing in your relationship? But perhaps you’re not sure how to express this to your significant other in a way that gets results, and doesn’t end up in a fight? Effective communication in relationships is essential for satisfaction and long-term connection. Communication is key, but before you can communicate, you need to know what it is that you need.
Identifying Unmet Needs
When you first started dating, all you needed to be happy was each other. Relationships tend to seem so simple when you first start going out. Over time, however, cracks develop and you find yourself frustrated. Think about what it is that is upsetting you. Tune in deep to find your primary emotions. Are you feeling alone and needing more connection? Are you feeling inadequate and needing more appreciation? Get underneath your anxiety and frustration to identify what you are really feeling and what you really need. Effective communication in relationships is about sharing the vulnerable parts of yourself vs. the reactivity. You might be aware of what you are feeling, but unsure of what it is that you need.
Some of those unmet needs could be:
· You may not feel like you are valued. Maybe your significant other is starting to take you for granted, and you just want to feel like you are important and acknowledged by him. Connect with how you feel when this happens and share what you need, “I’d like to feel more connected with you, it would be helpful to me if you could give me feedback on things you appreciate I do for you.”
· Perhaps you’d like room to express a little more individuality– enjoy a hobby or see friends, apart from your partner.
· You may have concerns about security, whether it be financial, physical, or emotional.
· Your partner may not be giving you the emotional support that you desire. You try to open up about concerns, and your partner doesn’t seem to be listening or has his/her face in an electronic device.
· In a similar vein, your partner may not be encouraging you when you’re down and you could really use the encouragement.
· Sex could be lacking passion. The needs that aren’t being met don’t necessarily have to be of the emotional type.
· He may not give you the trust that you feel that you deserve.
Your needs could also be a combination of the above, or something not mentioned here. Relationships are complicated and require some work to be successful. Use your underlying emotions to identify what it is that you are feeling. Your emotion gives you information about what you need. For example, if you are feeling isolated and alone, you need a greater sense of connection and companionship in your relationship. This could be accomplished through physical touch, verbal communication, etc.
Communication in Relationships – Expressing Your Needs to Your Partner
So you’ve recognized your unmet needs, but how do you express this to your partner, without making him or her feel like the bad guy? After all, it’s very likely that they don’t even realize what they are doing (or not doing).
Try not to vent or accuse when you bring the subject up. While this may feel therapeutic at the time, you will actually be causing more problems, both now and down the road. No one likes to be accused, and your partner will probably get defensive about it. Once that happens, the conversation will go nowhere and he’ll be less likely to willingly talk about it in the future, thinking that you will accuse him again.
Before you start discussing the issue with your partner, clearly think about your unmet needs, and some possible solutions. Defining your exact thoughts and feelings here is important. Are you angry, confused, or depressed? Is the issue minor and started recently, or is it a major issue that has been going on for years? Was there an event that marks the start of these feelings, such as getting married or having a baby?
Start with a soft start up, complaining without blaming. Describe what is happening without evaluating or judging. Add phrases such as “please”, and “I appreciate when you”. Be sure not to store things up! Bring things up – a laundry list of items can feel like an attack. Focus on connecting through your vulnerable emotions vs. your angry emotions – “I feel sad when… “. Slow down, breathe and regulate your emotions when you approach the conversation. Refrain from asking “why” questions and focus on making a clear statement about what you need.
Try to use “I” statements instead of “you” accusations, even if the issue is caused by your significant other. For example, instead of “You live like an animal who can’t clean up after himself!” try “I feel frustrated when I find things left all over the floor.”
When suggesting possible solutions, ask for a specific change in behavior, instead of going after your partner’s core traits. Rather than a vague “Please be neater,” you could say, “It would mean a lot to me if you would put the dirty clothes in the hamper, instead of on the floor.”
So open up to your partner about what concerns or bothers you. Don’t keep those unmet needs to yourself. Most of the time, people are willing to help make their loved one’s life easier, if approached in the right way. Effective communication in relationships is about connecting and sharing without attacking.
Communication and listening are integral elements to building a healthy relationship. To learn tips on how to communicate and listen better, read this article.
Marriage and couples counseling can help you communicate more effectively with your partner.
If you find yourself in the same perpetual arguments, struggles or feelings, couples counseling can help. To get started:
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